Next year the Muscogee school board better not encounter any medical emergency that makes frantic bystanders holler, “Is there a bow-tied urologist in the room?”
Chairman Philip Schley won’t be there.
Dr. Schley, 77, said Friday that he will not run for re-election this year, vacating both the District 8 seat and the chairmanship.
So voters will have to elect a new representative, and the board will have to choose a new chairman.
This will be welcome news to some, as the doctor’s patrician air has been known to wear on their nerves. Schley himself said it’s time the board got some fresh blood, someone younger, with new ideas.
Schley’s about as Old Columbus as can be: His home is St. Elmo on 18th Avenue, a majestic house so Greek Revival it could be a modeled temple. It’s near Weracoba Creek between the Columbus Country Club and East Highland. Like the house, Schley’s lineage here dates back to the 1830s.
His district encompasses a range of classes, both economic and social.
And high school.
“You know, it’s old Columbus, is what it is,” Schley said of the area. “It’s the town like it was when I grew up, and I’ve been comfortable in it because of that. I grew up on Peacock Avenue. I think that’s on the edge of it now. It’s got Bibb City in it — it stretches to the river there. Three of the high schools are in it.”
Those would be Columbus High, Hardaway and Jordan. Two face new challenges now because the “No Child Left Behind Act” says students in schools that don’t meet federal standards may transfer to schools that do, and overcrowd them.
Schley has served five terms, following the now-late David Rothschild into the District 8 seat in 1999. He had been on the school board in the 1970s, and had some idea what he was in for.
So why did he run?
“Because David Rothschild just deviled the hell out of me,” he said.
He believes the school district made progress in his decade on the board, citing these achievements:
— The new administration building by the Columbus Public Library is up and open, and seems to have gained public acceptance. Schley said he never runs into anyone who’s against it now. (Still some call it “the Taj Mahal.”)
— The voters just passed a school sales tax. Schley said he never runs into anyone who’s against that now, either.
— An ongoing dispute over building a park along Lindsay Creek behind the library was resolved as Schley and Mayor Jim Wetherington negotiated in person — finally agreeing to swap some land and use what’s left of 1999 library sales tax money to rip up old parking lot pavement and seed the soil.
Schley hopes eventually the creek’s concrete canal can be removed, restoring a natural creek bank with trees along it.
That’s something his successor may see to.
“I really think it needs to be somebody with younger, fresher ideas,” he said.
Tim Chitwood, firstname.lastname@example.org, 706-571-8508.